When the stern prawn trawler Karen grounded at the entrance to Ardglass Harbour, County Down, Northern Ireland, on 3 January 2011, it could have been a rerun of the tragic grounding of the fishing vessel Greenhill in 2006.In both cases the skipper was absent from the wheelhouse helping the crew process the catch and not keeping a proper lookout.
Says the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch report on the Karen incident: “The investigation has determined that the skipper was not monitoring the
vessel’s passage towards Ardglass harbour when the crew were engaged in processing the catch. It is likely that the skipper was absent from the
wheelhouse for some of that time. There was no watchkeeping alarm fitted in
the wheelhouse and the crew were unqualified. Written risk assessments were inaccurate and incomplete”.Notably, the skipper of Karen was well aware of the Greenhill tragedy, cited in the accident report: “On 19 January 2006, the Ardglass-based FV
Greenhill grounded between Ardglass and Ringfad Point. The skipper, who was alone on watch, had left the wheelhouse to help his crew process the catch for landing on arrival; a practice identified during the investigation to be common in the industry. The damaged vessel was subsequently driven off the rocks, but floodwater quickly transferred through the transverse bulkheads, which had numerous unsealed penetrations. As the vessel foundered the crew were unable to access their lifejackets, which were stowed below deck. Although the vessel’s liferaft was deployed, two of the crew were lost”.
Karen’s skipper was aware of the findings of the MAIB’s investigation into the grounding of FV Greenhill. However, he took insufficient account of the navigational safety lessons to be learnt from that accident, and did not follow the guidance provided in MGN 313 (F), says the MAIB.
That conclusion highlights the importance of ensuring that the response to an accident report should not be “tut-tut, how sad” but “What do I need to chane to make sure it doesn’t happen to my crew and vessel.